Informed Design Decisions
a Manifesto for Connected Data
"I need help,” is a cry we hear everyday from the building industry, “What resilient flooring options will qualify for LEED v4 LEM credits, WELL Feature 4, RESET Commercial Interiors IAQ best practice, local code requirements, have a slip coefficient greater than 0.35, can be sourced within 500 miles of my project, and are within my budget?” To answer these questions, Project Teams must sink countless hours into non-billable research to find the best solutions. Still, data gaps and time constraints make exhaustive or consistent research impossible, leaving specification decisions fraught with uncertainty. The construction industry entertains these ambitious questions because their answers are foundational to building a world where regenerative, productive projects are not just feasible, but a de-facto best practice standard.
A PERSISTENT PROBLEM
As goals for high-performing, healthy buildings increase in number and size, the need for vast, accurate material information has never been greater (and it increases daily). Of course, this is not a new problem. For decades, Project Teams have struggled to cobble together information from several sources and Manufacturers have been equally paralyzed by unending requests for similar-though-unique information that come with every project. Rightly so, building owners expect to see a commercial benefit for their stewardship and Manufacturers measure success in contracts won. The glut of research and disclosure required to deliver high-performing, healthy buildings strain the economics of high-performing, healthy buildings. Fatigue and tensions result, threatening the movement at its core.
THE DATABASE ERA
Calls for a harmonized, central repository of material information have rebounded around the world for over a two decades. Earnest efforts towards consolidation have typically fallen short, further fragmenting information despite admirable intentions. Countless material databases have popped up over the past decade, all over the world. Existing in silos, each disconnected database must individually be maintained and updated. Keeping material information relevant and current across a database requires a Herculean effort. Material profiles change regularly as certifications are awarded and expire, collections are added or discontinued, and building codes and guidelines evolve. Databases which fail to remain updated fall into disuse and material information quickly dies. As data dies, Manufacturers are less and less likely to keep their own information updated and the problem becomes cyclical.
THE DATA CONNECTIVITY ERA
Data connectivity is everywhere. From computers, to phones, to thermostats, to toasters, data streams from internet-enabled devices connecting daily life flows to cloud-based applications. Foundational to the Internet of Things (IoT) is the capacity for applications to exchange data with one another. The success of IoT provides an incredibly useful template to solve the persistent data problem that nags the building industry.
The construction industry hasn’t consolidated around a single data source because the idea is irrational. Manufacturer data comes from a variety of sources, and will continue to - certifiers, auditors, internal databases, and 3rd party databases. Material specifications vary according to project type, geographical constraints, code requirements and even personal preference. It’s unrealistic to have a single repository that collects all building material information. More realistic is to enable information exchange across industry data sources. Connectivity enables Manufacturers to manage their material information from various sources in a single location and exchange with connected platforms and databases.
THE ORIGIN HUB: CONNECTIVITY INFRASTRUCTURE
Connectivity requires data exchange services. Consider your smartphone. It can be synced with your email account to receive emails on your phone. Underlying this process are API (Application Programming Interface) services that are created and maintained by the host of your email account. Your phone provides settings to control the frequency of email updates. Together, these services allow your emails to flow to all connected devices. Similar data connectivity infrastructure has been missing within the construction industry. Manufacturers and Reporting Bodies all have vast amounts of data, but this data remains in disconnected silos without means for data exchange.
Origin provides the infrastructure required to enable data exchange throughout the industry. Built as a data hub, Origin provides standard API services and tools for data import and export as well as custom API services as needed, Companies can leverage these services to provide their data to the Origin hub, and export their data to other connected partners. All data that is published to Origin is structured to power search tools and connect to other applications and industry libraries. The vision behind building this connected conduit is to provide Manufacturers with the option to create their data once and have it connect to all desired platforms and industry libraries. As changes are made at the source, data is updated wherever it has been shared. Alternatively, when data has been created in various locations, Manufacturers can consolidate this information in a single location without having to re-create data. By consolidating data management, accuracy improves while reducing the effort required to respond to the diversity of industry requests.
As a new concept, Data Connectivity is a relatively misunderstood term. At its core, Data Connectivity implies data exchange, however; it alone does not imply the frequency of exchange, nor the feedback that is collected while data is exchanged. Again, consider the options you have when synching your email with your smartphone. Emails can automatically be received as they are received by your email server, you can opt to search for updates periodically, or you can opt to only receive emails when manually requested. If you opt to receive emails on your phone periodically or when manually requested, your phone is disconnected from your email server between each request. As a result, your inbox viewed on your computer will differ from your inbox viewed on your phone. If you opt to receive emails on your phone as they are received by your email server, your phone is connected to your email server and your computer and phone inboxes will mirror one another. Your phone settings for email boil down to two options - Connected Data (automatic updates) and Disconnected Data (periodic or manual updates).
Origin also offers the same options - Connected Data and Disconnected Data - within its Data Connectivity settings. The frequency of data exchange offered by each option are as important as the capacity for exchange, and is critical to frame. Data exchange frequency dictates the amount of feedback that can be shared with Manufacturers. Without feedback, the incentive for Manufacturers to participate is undermined and the ecosystem is destabilized.
Data integration partners who leverage Origin’s Connected API Services share or receive information in real-time. A Connected Reporting Body, for example, provides Origin with new certifications and updates as changes are made within their database. This ensures that Project Teams find the most up-to-date certifications from each Connected Reporting Body. Similarly, Connected users of data have access to the most current materials and certifications. Each time a user of a Connected 3rd-party software or industry database accesses a material or certification, the information is loaded directly from the Origin Hub. While individual user’s information (name, contacts, firm name) are not shared, this process also allows generic usage feedback to be collected and shared with Manufacturers. Critically, Connected Data services allow Manufacturers to gain highly valuable data usage details such as, the frequency that their materials are accessed, the geographies where their materials are accessed, the platforms and libraries that most actively access their materials, and the certifications that are most sought. From this feedback, Manufacturers can hone their market approach and optimize their certification profiles.
Data integration partners who leverage Origin’s Disconnected API Services share or receive information periodically or manually. A Disconnected Reporting Body may provide monthly or quarterly updates. Details from any new or amended certification that occurs between each update is received by Origin at the next update. 3rd Party platforms and databases can also use Origin’s Disconnected API Services to download material and certification information in bulk. Disconnected Data allows tools to be built on top of data which is downloaded by partners. For example, a Disconnected Partner might build regionally filters, or tools to compare material ingredients to various chemical red lists.
In terms of feedback loops, it is possible for Manufacturers to track each time their data is downloaded in bulk, but it is not possible to track usage thereafter. Once disconnected, a 3rd Party can use, copy, edit and redistribute materials and certifications without consent and without providing feedback to Manufacturers.
Today, Manufacturers that use Origin can connect their materials to the certifications, declarations and test reports that are provided by Reporting Bodies and receive updates when their content changes at its source. It is also possible to create content within Origin when Reporting Body data is not yet integrated. Integrations will continue to be prioritized according to industry feedback. Most integrations with Reporting Bodies have been established with the help of Manufacturers who desire greater data management efficiencies and increased visibility for their certifications.
Manufacturers can also opt in to share their materials with Connected 3rd Parties. Origin is the technology partner of mindful MATERIALS, Origin powers the mindful MATERIALS Library, allowing Manufacturers to leverage their content on Origin and submit their materials for inclusion in the mindful MATERIALS Library without recreating them. Work is also underway to send content directly from Origin to the PORTICO platform. Additional sharing connections will be prioritized according to industry feedback.
In Boston at Greenbuild 2017 USGBC announced GBCI and IWBI’s selection of the Origin Hub as the source of trusted data for LEED Online, Arc, and WELL. This partnership will enable Origin to connect material and certification information directly from Origin to their projects within GBCI and IWBI software. Integration with LEED, Arc and WELL will be available in 2018. Our partnership with GBCI and IWBI will help define, troubleshoot and standardize integration requirements and deliverables for all 3rd Party software providers.
To participate as a beta user of any of our upcoming integrations (Reporting Bodies, Portico, GBCI and/or IWBI), please contact Rebecca Best (email@example.com).
ENVISIONING A CONNECTED FUTURE
We envision a future where material specification decisions are guided by data-driven search filters and supporting documentation. We envision connected data flowing between all relevant Reporting Bodies, Manufacturers, industry software and industry databases. A connected future also ensures that Manufacturers have the option to select where their data is managed, where it is shared. Connectivity will enable Project Teams to make better informed specification decisions to meet specific project needs and code or green building requirements. We see Project Teams saving time as material and certification data to directly populate BIM software, specification software, and Project Team digital libraries. We see Manufacturers receiving statistics and analytics to provide the ROI that has been has been the toughest nut to crack over the years.
The Origin Hub provides a solid foundation for the industry to build upon - we will have succeeded only when Manufacturers can manage each material or certification data point in one location and leverage each to address all desired industry platforms, libraries and Project Team requests, and receive feedback to guide ongoing engagement. An informed design process is no longer a pipe dream, we’re getting there incrementally.
Each step we collectively take towards achieving Connectivity, we also step closer to enabling informed design decisions as standard best practice. We look forward to continuously collaborating with the entire industry to strengthen and grow the availability and usefulness of material information. Origin will continue building the infrastructure required to support the movement towards a Connected Future.
As the movement grows, momentum builds - join us! Search the Origin Hub, connect your data to the Origin Hub, leverage data from the Origin Hub, or engage in our formal feedback loops and guide the development of features and tools.
To get involved, contact: Rebecca Best (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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